Why Many Jewish Christians Use Modern Versions
Question: Over the years I have noticed that many of my Messianic Christian friends, most of whom are of Jewish descent, use modern Bible versions. Since Jewish people were essential to Bible preservation, with emphasis on exact copying of manuscripts how is it that so many Jewish believers are now using Bible versions that are not faithful to exact text preservation?
This is a really great question and one that has several possible answers depending on which particular Jewish believer you happen to be speaking about. Let me first correct one misconception though. While people like the famous Masoretes, notably the Ben Asher family, were quite careful in copying the Old Testament texts between the 7th and 11th centuries continuing the most ancient tradition of careful, exact textual preservation, there was also a group of Jews even in pre-Christian times who were actively involved in altering the ancient texts and writing material in order to attempt to Grecianize the Hebrew religion. Some of these same groups of people would later originate some of the spurious manuscripts that so-called modern translations were based on. The fact this information is not widely known is because of poor scholarship on the part of some and the willful overlooking and obscuring of the facts on the part of others.
During the time when Christ was on the earth and Paul, who followed, there were people active in the attempt to pervert the Bible we call the Old Testament. The most notable of which still has some of his writing preserved today. I am referring to Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who lived in Egypt. But in Jerusalem you had a big division in Bible interpretation present in the Sanhedrin itself. It was divided into two sects. One was the Sadducees or liberals and the other was the Pharisees or conservatives. Much is said condemning the Pharisees in the Bible and some people have jumped to the conclusion that they were doctrinally the worst of the two groups. This is not correct. Actually the Pharisees were commended at one point for their doctrine because the people were instructed in Scripture to do as they said but not to do as they did. The Pharisees problem was in their hypocrisy. Not much was said about the Sadducees because they were doctrinally so completed alienated from the teaching of the Scripture, even denying many important truths. Paul appealed to Pharisees for support against the Sadducees to get protection because of their denial of Scripture truth.
Not only were there division among the main body of Jewry then, there were also many splinter groups, the most famous of these were the Essenes, who were around from the second century B.C. till the first century A.D. There were also a lot of separate groups who had various mystic, messianic, and other beliefs. They are mentioned by Josephus, Philo, and Eusebius. But the archaeologist has been providing additional information in recent years. Today there are still many divisions among Jews and Jewish belief and practice has variations including Kabbalism, which is connected with what we often call esoteric knowledge. Though this is outside what we would consider mainline belief it and the other variants does have its influence. What you need to understand is there are a lot of forces that encourages Jews toward compromise when it comes to Bible versions.
One force I have not mentioned is the social force of the dispersion of Jews over the world. The Jewish people tried to adapt and fit in with the various nations they went among out in the world. Some tried to do this while keeping their Jewish identity and some were forced into remaining socially distinct by the intentional discrimination they ran into. But the desire to be like their neighbors often resulted in Jews becoming so identified with their nations that they considered themselves as much German, Polish, and so forth as they considered themselves Jewish. It was often quite a shock to them to discover after many generations that their neighbors did not accept them as being fully a member of the nation they resided in. But this societal pressure is important in understanding why Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus as Messiah and Savior might be accepting of modern versions. They see their fellow Gentile believers being accepting of these versions so they fall into the compromise without searching the matter through for themselves. I have found many parroting the same errors the Gentile believers have been taught by those seeking to profit out of the proliferation of Bible versions.
It really saddens me to see Jewish believers doing like Gentile believers instead of being a light unto the Gentiles. But the pressure toward compromise is understandable if not excusable. While Messianic churches revel in their distinctions they nevertheless want to be acceptable to the organizations with which they have aligned themselves in recent times. I wish it were different but I suppose they will have to learn the truth before the Throne of our Lord as will so many other believers. But the believer in Jesus the Messiah or Christ must be the people of the Book or there is no basis on which to rest their doctrine and covenant because the written word is inextricably tied to the Living Word. The people and demons who hate Godís Word know this, that is why they were trying to undermine it even from ancient times.
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